Frank Zappa: The Dog Breath Variations


The Dog Breath Variations


Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention


Uncle Meat (Rykodisc 10506/07)

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Don Preston (keyboards),

Artie Tripp (marimba, probably vibes and percussion), Ruth Underwood (probably marimba and vibes), possibly other musicians


Composed by Frank Zappa


Recorded: October 1967 - February 1968


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

The whole Uncle Meat LP was stuffed full of jazz surprises, but this short track (less than two minutes in duration) is a great place to sample Zappa's sonic wizardry. Today many recordings credit "programmers" on their personnel listings, but Zappa relies mostly on acoustic instruments in generating the otherworldly soundscapes on this musical gem. Almost a decade later, Steve Reich would reveal -- in his spectacular Music for 18 Musicians -- the modernistic side of mallet instruments. But Zappa had discovered the hypnotic power of the marimba and vibraphone back in his Uncle Meat days. And don't be put off by the canine odor: "Dog Breath" is one of Zappa's most beautiful melodies. This often hard-edged artist rarely gave much thought to developing his warm-and-fuzzy, lyrical side, but he had a fondness for this theme, and relied on it in several other settings.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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